The McLibel trial

Legal Action

April 1996

The month of March has been very eventful in the McLibel trial. The defendants lodged an appeal against the ruling of Mr Justice Bell concerning the interpretation of the meaning of the nutrition section of the London Greenpeace factsheet that led McDonald's to initiate the libel proceedings. The appeal is due to be heard in April.

Helen Steel and Dave Morris were granted a two-week adjournment between 14 March and 26 March. They had applied for the recess because of exhaustion. However, the adjournment was granted on the basis that they were not ready to cross-examine the next witness in the case, Paul Preston, who is McDonald's UK President.

The McLibel support campaign announced that an important witness for the defence would be giving evidence when the trial resumed. Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher, is now director of the Humane Society of America's 'eating with a conscience' campaign. The campaign is designed to educate people about organic sustainable agriculture and the dangers of current methods of food production. Mr Lyman believes that one of the biggest health threats of the coming decade is so-called mad cow disease - BSE. He testified about the methods and effects of cattle ranching in the United States.

The campaign also issued a briefing responding to the announcement by McDonald's on 23 March that it had suspended the sale of British beef products in all its stores in the United Kingdom because of concerns over BSE. 'In the first week of our trial, we challenged Paul Preston in the witness box over the BSE threat. It seems that at no time before or since has McDonald's implemented any BSE checks on its UK beef supply sources. In our opinion, the company's desire for profits has been put ahead of its much-trumpeted 'concern' for customers' health ... The well documented disregard of BSE 'whistleblowers', has now been exposed as a scandal - attempts to use libel laws to suppress criticism of the food industry will also fail.'
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